In the West Bank, there is a two-tiered system of justice, including for minors. For settler children, justice is administered according to Israeli domestic law, with all the due process protections that affords. They cannot be charged as adults until they reach 18, in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory.
For Palestinian children, military law applies, and that pretty much means due process, and the tenderness of their years, is irrelevant. Their childhood itself is cut short, both by the circumstances of the Occupation and the letter of military law. Until recently, they could be charged as adults as young as 12 years of age.
A recent military order “reformed” that anomaly by setting their age of majority at 16 –still two years earlier than their settler counterparts, and two years younger than required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. But the reality is that children as young as 12 continue to be arrested and imprisoned in adult military jails. In the majority of cases the soldiers who arrest them say that the children were throwing stones, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Defence of Children International-Palestine reports that arrests of children have been increasing . Presently approximately 350 West Bank children under 17 are being held in Israeli prisons. Defence of Children provides testimonies of the children, detailing the brutal circumstances of their detention and interrogation, and their confinement with adult prisoners.
Urgent appeals on behalf of the children are issued by Defence of Children, including in the case of masse arrests (17 children taken in a night raid from Al Jalazun Refugee Camp near Ramallah), and the transfer of children to prisons within Israel, where family members cannot visit because of restrictions on movement of people under Israel’s military Occupation.